When I ask London trio Sälen why they’ve remained so enigmatic they look puzzled. Simon Milner, Paul Taylor Wale and Ellie Kamio put out their first track, “IILWMBF” (that’s “I’m In Love With My Best Friend”) a year ago but despite radio play, online love and melodies that hook themselves into your every thought, they’ve kept things pretty low-key. “We didn’t play loads at the start,” says Milner, searching for a reason for this “mystery band” branding aloud. “We haven’t done many interviews.” So I’ve taken it upon myself to share the story of Sälen. Like all good things, it starts in a bar.
Milner (guitarist of electro-rock group Is Tropical) and Wale are old friends who’d wanted to create together for half a decade. After Milner met 21-year-old Kamio working in the aforementioned bar, he knew she was the mouthpiece they needed to front their deliciously sinister alt-pop outfit. The next day Kamio sent over a voice note of her singing “IILWMBF”. “I didn’t think I was going to be a good singer,” she shrugs. Even her mum wasn’t convinced.
The listeners disagree. “People started to like it so we got loads of messages,” grins the quietly charming Wale. “So we got a manager, we had all these messages from labels.” The group signed with Island and have been developing their sound since, chopping Kamio’s saccharine vocals with gut- wrenching lyrics and club-ready beats. “I don’t know another way of singing!” She proclaims, “I’m still learning how to sing. I think this is the way we all write and how we think. I don’t think it would really work if it was pop-y music with a sweet voice, then add cheesy lyrics.”